It is the Capitol Hill equivalent of the "Man Bites Dog" headline: While most members of Congress, regardless of ideological stripe, battle to garner federal funds for their districts, an Indiana legislator is saying "thanks but no thanks" to $4.5 million allocated to his constituency.
Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., has written to House Appropriations Chairman Robert Livingston, R-La., saying he would rather have the money spent to reduce the national debt than used for a local wetlands project, according to the Indianapolis Star-News.
"I know it is unusual for a congressman to write and ask you to withhold spending in his own district, but I hope you will consider this request," Hostettler told Livingston.
The money would be used to purchase and develop 8,000 acres of wetlands for tourism and hunting.
Hostettler's move comes despite the fact that a fellow Republican, Senate Agriculture Chairman Richard Lugar, Indiana's senior senator, not only supports the project, but helped obtain a grant for it from the Agriculture Department.
But Hostettler called the plan a "boondoggle" that would take 8 percent of Greene County's farmland out of production, while creating environmental and regulatory problems for other landowners.
Officials of the state Natural Resources Department were caught off guard by Hostettler's action.
"We are surprised. No one thought something like this was coming," a spokesman said. "This is perhaps the last opportunity in Indiana to obtain public land like this."
And, reciting a familiar argument, the spokesman contended, "This is federal money that will be spent elsewhere, whether we use it or not."